As mentioned in the previous post, last year, while discussing the yearly review of faculty at IIIT-Delhi, I had asked two questions from all the faculty members – what they need to do to be more productive, and what the Institute needs to do for them to be more productive. In the previous note, I gave the summary of responses of the first question. In this I will give the summary of responses to the second question. I have kept them separate as I strongly believe that while Institutional support is essential for being productive, once basic support is in place, as is the case with many research focused Institutions, the main challenges for a researcher fall in him/her domain. Put it another way, even if many of the Institutional shortcomings are eliminated, many researchers will not become productive unless they squarely address the challenges at the individual level – two most important ones, as the feedback revealed, being research focus and orientation, and more time and better time management.

For the second question (about what the Institute should do for an individual to be more productive), interestingly strong patterns did not emerge, as they did for the first question. There were even some responses saying “nothing”. Still the two points that were mentioned by a couple of people were:

Reduce class size and reduce teaching. This point is clearly well taken – while eliminating teaching can be detrimental to research in an academic setting, reducing class size and the number of courses a person has to teach can free more time for research and indeed embed research in teaching as well. (We had a follow up workshop in the Institute within faculty on research productivity and as an outcome we agreed to reduce the teaching load for some years.) Related to this was another issue: Improve the quality of TAs – clearly with more effective TAs, as our western counterparts generally enjoy, teaching effort can reduce without diluting quality.  

PhD students – improve their quantity and quality. This again is a point well taken – if we can have higher quality PhD students in larger numbers, clearly productivity of faculty members can increase. This is not just a problem of increasing intake, but also of having systems of evaluation and encouragement that will keep the quality and aspirations of PhD students high.

–Other issues that were pointed out by a few people include: space for lab (this is clearly important for areas that have specialized equipment),  computing resources/infrastructure, improve focus on research at the Institute level (another important point that as Institutions, while we talk about research, we often spend far more energy in teaching oriented discussions and issues); senior person in my area to provide some mentorship; m

edia/outreach – to message to non-academic world about the work being done; s

trengthen admin systems through IT; s

trengthen HR support; m
ore individual time with Director; r
educe negative vibes; i
nternal initiatives for promoting research; reduce
involvement of faculty in clerical work; g
roup interaction should improve; s

mall workshop organizing capability.

As with the other note, standard caveat applies: these issues may or may not be relevant to other institutes.